METS FANS SHARE THEIR MEMORIES OF THE SEPTEMBER 20, 1973 GAME:
June 30, 2003
I was 10 years old in 1973. I had only started to follow the Mets in '71, so this was my first pennant race. I watched the game on TV with my father. When Cleon Jones played the carom off the top of the fence and started the play that ended with Ritchie Zisk being nailed at the plate, my father turned to me and said, "they're gonna win. When a team starts getting breaks like that, they're gonna win." Because I was 10 and he was my dad, I believed it. It was a great feeling 'knowing' the Mets would win it. The night that the ball rolled through Bill Buckner's legs was great, but I don't know if it was better than this night.
August 26, 2003
I am absolutely astounded that only one person has written about this game. This was the most remarkable regular season game in Mets history, taking place in the most remarkable regular season series the Mets have ever been involved in. It was also the most meaningful regular season game in Mets history. Taking place at the peak of the 1973 pennant drive, it was a game the Mets absolutely had to have. The details of the game – and the series – were pure magic. I remember it all as if it were yesterday.
Actually, it could have been considered a 5-game series. The Mets played the first-place Pirates on five consecutive nights, the first 2 in Pittsburgh, followed by the next 3 at Shea. The Mets entered Pittsburgh 2 and a half games out and Seaver was bombed the first game, knocking the Mets 3 and a half out. The next night, the Mets were down by 3 runs entering the ninth. They rallied for 5 runs and held on, moving back to 2 ˝ out. The next night at Shea, they won easily, closing to a game and a half of the Pirates.
That brings us to this game. Words cannot describe the magic that was in the air. The Mets were desperate. Down by a run in the bottom of the sixth, they tied it. Down by a run in the bottom the eighth, they tied it again. And yet again, down by a run going to the bottom of the ninth, they had a man on second with two outs. Because Yogi Berra had pulled out all the stops, he had only back-up catcher Duffy Dyer to pinch- hit against tough closer Ramon Hernandez. Dyer doubled up the gap in left-center, tying the game. I’ll never forget Dyer immediately being replaced by a pinch-runner (a pitcher), jogging off the field to a standing ovation. It was then that Lindsey Nelson remarked about the “spirit of 1969” being in the air.
The game went to the top of the 13th and what has become known as the “Dave Augustine” play. With two outs and Richie Zisk on first base, Augustine hit a drive that appeared to be going for a home run. Instead, it hit the point at the very top of the wall, going directly on a fly into Cleon Jones’ hands. What was incredible was that an inch higher would have been a home run, and an inch lower would have caused the ball to bounce in a normal fashion, causing the Mets to lose precious seconds, and the run would have scored. Instead, Jones whirled and threw to Wayne Garrett, who had been moved to shortstop, who then threw to Ron Hodges at the plate for the out. Unbelievable.
Cleon Jones remarked later, "I knew we had won the game immediately after that play." Even the Pirates' great Willie Stargell said, "I knew after that play, we could have played 50 more innings and not beaten the Mets." Stargell also said, "I don’t think the National League All- Stars could have beaten the Mets in that series."
In the bottom of the 13th, it was the rookie Ron Hodges who hit a bloop single to left field with runners on first and second. I’ll never forget Stargell bobbling the ball as the winning run raced home.
Needless to say, the Mets won the next night with Seaver. It was the only time in baseball history that a team in September reached .500 and entered first place on the same night. The Mets never relinquished first place in the final two weeks of the season.
March 28, 2004
Frank-what a great appreciation for that game! I always thought part of the magic for that year began when the Mets inserted the name Hodges into the lineup and I remember listening to that game on AM radio in Pennsylvania as an eleven year old on WNEW-AM, which could be heard at night down there.
Leonard Koppett joked, half seriously, that it was the ghost of Gil Hodges that had kicked the ball back into Cleon's glove!
This was a game that summed up the entire season-Miracles do happen!
May 22, 2004
I too remember this game like it was yesterday. As a ten year old, I watched just about every game that year but this was one every true Mets fan should know about. The relay throw from Jones to Garret to Hodges should be used in instructional videos. It's 'Textbook 101.'
April 13, 2005
I watched this game by myself on a small black and white TV we had in our kitchen. The rest of my family was in the living room watching (on our brand new large color TV) the famous "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which was played the same night. Being a devoted fan, I chose to watch the Mets! I do recall, though, that Bob Murphy gave updates of the match between pitches.
These were two memorable events. To this day, however, I'm convinced that the 13th inning provided more drama than did King and Riggs. Billie Jean's victory wasn't what one would call "surprising". But the play at the plate was something else! Who could have expected THAT? The relay of Jones to Garrett to Hodges was a more exhilirating highlight than anything served up in tennis that night.
June 8, 2005
Frank, you are 100% on the nose. This was the most important regular season game in Mets history. I remember all the details, just like you laid it out. Awesome job!
I think the Pirates were hung over from losing Clemente in the off season in the plane tragedy, and they had less will to win that year, because on paper they were still a solid team.
But the Mets took advantage of all the breaks that they got, the pitching came thru and the Dave Augistine play was the topper in the regular season that year. That was a magical year and an unforgettable game.
July 12, 2005
My recollections of this game are vivid. I was 9 years old, and lived and breathed Mets baseball. My father took me to this game, we sat in the first row of the upper deck on the third base side. I remember my father wanting to leave the game at some later stage, because he had to get up for work the next day, but I whined my way into our staying. Every time the Mets went down a run, my father wanted to leave, but I told him if we stayed, they would come back.
I remember the look on my father's face around the time the Dave Augustine play happened, I remember the whole crowd standing up to see what had happened, and I remember the roar of the crowd when Zisk was called out at the plate. I also remember them winning in the bottom half of that inning, us leaving the stadium at what must have been after 1 in the morning, and my father coming home from work with tickets for the September 25th game 5 days later against the Expos: Willie Mays night, if I remember correctly.
I've always thought of the 1973 Mets as a big portion of my childhood in a nutshell, and this game was an important part of the Mets magical 1973 season. I Was There! I still believe, Tug.
August 18, 2005
This game is rightly remembered for the "ball on the wall" play----but wasn't this also the game that marked the return of George "The Stork" Theodore after that horrible collision with Don Hahn back in July? I remember that "The Stork" got quite an ovation when he came out to pinch-hit. But according to the box-score, he struck out. Still, if this indeed was the game that marked the return of "The Stork", it just adds to the lore of that great September evening.
November 6, 2006
I was a sophomore in college, sharing a basement apartment with my sister. I'm watching the game and remember vividly Dave Augustine hitting the ball off the TOP of the left field wall and the ball bouncing back into Cleon Jones glove - the relay to Harrelson and then to Ron Hodges tagging the runner out at the plate. I jumped up and yelled "I BELIEVE!!!" at the top of my lungs!
September 16, 2007
I am getting chills reading the above comments. I was also 10 and lived and breathed Met baseball. I was watching it on a small B/W TV in my parents room. I was allowed to stay up late because they knew I would go crazy if I missed the pennant stretch games.
Life was good as a 10-year-old Met fan in 1973!
March 27, 2008
Of all the great regular-season Mets games in their history, for some reason this one doesn't get nearly as talked about as others. I am also a little surprised that one of the local newspapers have never done a feature on this game. I'd like to know what Dave Augustine thought of the "ball off the wall" play, as well as Cleon, Ron Hodges, and Richie Zisk. I'd also like to know if the TV feed is still around. This would be a true classic game for "Mets Rewind."
I was 10 at the time and did not see the game as it happened because I had to get up super early for school. I did hear the radio call on WCBS News the next morning and was absolutely dumbfounded (in a good way, of course).
Incidentally, Zisk will be featured in a bobble head tribute set to the Pirates of the 1970s. For his slow-footed contribution and getting nailed at the plate at the end of that mind-boggling play, I'm getting his bobble head.
July 13, 2008
What I remember most is that for some unfathomable reason, my Dad wanted to leave early to beat the traffic out of Shea. So, I couldn't exactly stop him, but I got him to agree to watch the ninth from the runway on a lower level. Anyway, we were standing there when Dyer hit that pinch hit double and then had to scramble back to our seats to see the rest of the game. I always think about that: if we had really left early, I would have missed seeing that ball hit the top of the fence and into Cleon's mitt (still the greatest play I have seen.)
October 13, 2008
I don't remember how my father got tickets for this game but he surprised me and my brother with them. I was 9 and my brother was 7. We sat way up in the upper deck on the first base side.
This was my first memory of a pennant race and it was great. I don't remember sitting at all during this game and cheering like crazy when the win was in the bag. I also remember the whole crowd chanting "Good Bye Pittsburgh, Good Bye Pittsburgh, Good Bye Pittsburgh, We Hate To See You Go!!!" just like in 69 when the Mets knocked Chicago out of first place (black cat game another great game that I was too young to remember, unfortunately). This game more than made up for it and made me a life long Mets fan. Whenever we talk about great moments at Shea, I always bring up this game.
October 21, 2008
I was there. Thirteen years old at the time. Yes, updates on the scoreboard about the King-Riggs match. The crowd cheered when Billie Jean's victory was posted. We were sitting field level all the way down the left field line. (Talk about good luck.) You couldn't see home plate because of the angle, but you could see the top of that left field wall up close and personal. The ball hit the flat top of the wall, bounced up and back to Cleon instead of up and over. I could see Garrett's face as he took the throw from Jones and turned to make the relay. You couldn't see the play at the plate from there, but you could hear the crowd erupt. It was a school night and my father was going to take me home after the 12th inning. I told him Stargell was due up in the 13th so we should stick around. Glad we did. Still the most amazing thing I've seen on a baseball diamond. I've got the ticket stub signed by Jones, Garrett and Hodges. Cleon wrote "The Play" on it and Hodges wrote "Ball on the Wall Play."
January 7, 2009
I was 15 years old and at the time remember watching this game in my room on a 12 inch black and white. This play and game made such an impression on me that 35 plus years later I was recently thinking about it and was curious if it could be found online. I am glad to see I am not the only one who vividly remembers this game. The 1973 Mets pennant drive was just unbelievable and this game epitomized that stretch drive. That whole play everything went perfect including the Pirates having a slow runner in Zisk at first. As a lifelong Mets fan I have always felt the Augustine play was the most amazing moment in Mets history and yes I was at game 6 in 86. Without a doubt the most underrated. For the true Met fan unforgettable. If anyone knows where I can find a box score or highlight. Please let me know.
February 21, 2010
I was there. I was 12 years old and a die hard Met fan. My father and brother went to get hot chocolate in the top of the 13th. I stood in the rampway and watched Augustine's drive just miss clearing the wall and the terrific relay of Jones to Garrett to Hodges cutting down Richie Zisk. My dad came back just in time to see the umpire signal "out" Later that inning Hodges won the game with his bloop hit. I remember walking down the ramps delirious with joy certain the Mets were going all the way. I also remember the body language of the Pirates as they slowly walked to the dugout. They seemed to know the tide had turned against them. Ironically the one player on that '73 team who stuck it out for all the lean years and was there when the franchise turned around was Ron Hodges.
August 9, 2010
Listened to Bob Prince call this on on my little radio (KDKA). A tough loss for the Bucs. All in all a great game.
December 28, 2010
Having moved from NYC to LA in 1970 I wasn't at the game, but remember following that incredible pennant race from afar and hearing about the ridiculous play from friends the next day on the phone. Just a note that the game was started by the greatest clutch starter in Met history - #36 Jerry Koosman. Kooz pitched brilliantly, as he always did when it counted (check out his Sept/Oct record in 69/73 - AMAZING!) but wasn't around at the finish. Nice to read that so many of you were still in Shea for the lucky 13th inning to see "Red" Garrett nail Zisk at the plate.
February 18, 2011
I'm writing this even though I normally don't do this. The reason being that one of my best friends called me up at the last minute and asked me if I wanted to go to the game with him. He had an extra ticket and I can't thank him enough. We were sitting behind the Pirates dugout 2nd or 3rd row so I can say I saw the play as clear as it was in slow motion on HD. I've been lucky to have been to quite a few great sporting events but this one will always stand out for all the reasons that have been said already. For me though that friend passed away last month and I'll always be in his debt for giving me that special night. Billie and Bobby fit in there somewhere but they can't hold a candle to that game and my Bro.
September 26, 2013
I was 9 years old at the time and was sitting in the last row of the field boxes right by the left field fence, so I was literally around 10 feet away from the play. I can still remember it as clear as day, from my brother saying "oh no" as it appeared the ball was going out, to the complete craziness of Shea when they threw out Zisk at the plate. I also remember when Duffy Dyer, who I believed was like a .180 hitter, came up to pinch hit, and a few guys who were sitting next to us threw their hands up in the air and figured the game was over. Only to come running back to their seats as Dyer doubled. When the Mets finally won it, this 9-year-old boy was slapping hands with complete strangers sharing in the joy of the win. Back when you didn't need the scoreboard to tell you to chant "Let's Go Mets." I really miss that innocence.
August 31, 2011
In 1973 I was 10. My friend was going to Shea for his birthday party. I couldn't go because we were going to be on vacation. Two days before vacation my mom had a minor injury but vacation was cancelled.
I remember just hanging out in my living room and then hearing a horn honk. It was my friends dad in their big green Torino station wagon. They didn't get me a ticket as I was supposed to be on vacation, but he said hop in and we will swap tickets so you can go. How cool was this guy?
I never dreamed the game would be that good. I was more nervous than in any game that I actually played in. The Mets coming back 3 times and the Jones-Garret-Hodges play was nuts.
I remember Endy's "the catch" and how people were freaking about how great a play it was with the pressure on. I agreed of course, but remembered back to 73 and an even better/more emotional play. I also remembered that unlike the Endy game, the Mets went on to win!
August 11, 2015
The Augustine ball still defies logic and physics. How can a ball traveling out and down strike a flat horizontal surface and change direction to travel back and up unless it perfectly struck the front leading edge of the top of the wall where the top and front surfaces intersect. Amazing. Most Met-friendly ball in Mets history until the ball that found its way around Buckner's glove 13 years later. Love it.